Congressmember Karen Bass introduces legislation to increase diversity within state department

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Congressmember Karen Bass (D-CA), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, on Monday, introduced the Represent America Abroad Act of 2020 to ensure that the U.S. Foreign Service reflects the rich composition of the American citizenry. The legislation establishes a program to identify, attract and welcome diverse mid-career professionals into the Foreign Service.

The bill is being cosponsored by Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA), Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus; Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus as well as the Vice-Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; and Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-NM), Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus.

“Foreign Service Officers are America’s face to the world and the workforce must represent the United States’ commitment to diversity and inclusion in order to effectively advance American values on the world stage,” said Congressmember Bass, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa. “For years, the State Department has expressed a commitment to building a workforce that reflects the diverse composition of the United States. Since the State Department has been unable to act on workforce diversity at the mid-career and senior levels, Congress intends to work with them to do so.”

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“The Foreign Service proudly represents America to the world. That is why it is so important that we ensure the Foreign Service is truly representing all Americans. This is especially true today,” said Congresswoman Chu. “Now that America has our most diverse Congress In history, it’s time to do the same throughout our government. This will not only mean more opportunities for more Americans who may not have imagined such a path for themselves, it will also improve the quality of America’s cultural and political attaches by drawing from a broader pool of experience. America is a great country, shaped by generations of immigrants from every corner of the globe. This bill will help us better share this history and the strength it gives us with the world.”

“Diplomats who represent us should represent all of us,” said Congressman Castro. “We need real structural change at all levels of the U.S. State Department in order to make progress on diversity and inclusion. As Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Vice Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I’ve put diversity in diplomacy at the center of my work. For the people who represent America to actually be representative of the American people, diversity needs to be a long-term priority backed by a commitment from the State Department leadership, the President, and the United States Congress. Our diversity is our competitive advantage in making diplomacy more effective, and we must embrace that strength. This bill is an important step forward in doing just that.”

“Representation matters, but right now it’s unclear if the State Department is ensuring their teams represent the diversity in our country,” said Congresswoman Haaland. “I’m proud to work with our caucus chairs of color to push the State Department to fully utilize of the perspectives and experiences that people of color bring to the table to make a stronger department and show the world the strength in our diversity.”

The Represent America Abroad Act of 2020 would establish a program known as the “Represent America Abroad Mid-career Foreign Service Entry Program”. The program is to be created no later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of the bill with the mission of ensuring that our country’s diplomatic workforce reflects the diverse composition of the United States.

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